People with eating disorders are among us, but do we see them?

Eating disorders are still a taboo topic in Bulgaria and beyond, especially in the teenage circles where it needs to be discussed the most. Read the piece on this important topic written by Krasimira Sabeva, a 10th-grader from the “Antoine de Saint Exupéry” French Language School in Plovdiv, and think about the eating habits of people around you.


Food is vital for the development of the human body. What we consume is particularly important in childhood and youth when the body develops rapidly. Often, teenagers do not eat correctly, which leads to obesity, but also to mental disorders opposite to it, such as anorexia, bulimia and hyperfagia and ortorexia. The topic is very important for young people, because such conditions seldom remain hidden, and at the same time they hide many important risks and in the worst case scenario – can even lead to death. We turned to the psychologist Sabka Dyakova-Chehovic with question how to respond, if our friend comes into such a situation.


“[This subject] is very important, especially for young people because eating disorders develop on the background of socially accepted norms of beauty, and as we know young people are particularly prone to follow certain aesthetic models”, said the Plovdiv-based psychologist.  “The nutritional psychiatric disorders fall in a wide spectrum ranging from overeating (hyperfagia) to total food denial (anorexia). Deviations in nutrition are also bulimia (conscious vomiting after feeding) and orthorexia – eating of healthy food only, reaching maniacal levels. Variations of ortorexia are the extreme forms of vegetarianism. The people who suffering from eating disorders are  manic obsessed with food,” Dyakova-Chehovich adds .


So, what are the main differences between bulimia and anorexia?


According to the psychologist, bulimia is a deliberate vomiting of the swallowed food, an anorexia – a denial of food. “It is not so simple … the psyche of these people is extremely tense, the perception is distorted, the consciousness – obsessed with food,” she says, adding that, in her view, anorexia is one of the most life-threatening diseases. “It is a very serious illness. The treatment is long and complex, but it is possible. I have a patient who more than 10 years struggle with bulimia. She started to vomit at 16, trying to look good, but she never liked it. She has been skilfully hiding her condition for years. During this time, besides stomach problems, her teeth have been seriously injured, they have begun to get bad and turn yellow from the high acidity. The worst thing about this is that she has not found the strength and courage to share her secret. Unlike anorexia, where some of the organs may even refuse and follow a long recovery period, bulimia may become hidden and untreated condition for years”, Dyakova-Chehovich says.


Thus, it is important to note details about the lives of our close ones in order to recognise that they suffer from anorexia or bulimia – and try helping them. “In any gym you can see people with eating disorders. Unfortunately, mass culture and ideals imposed for aesthetic models as well as various fads in healthy foods conducive to eating disorders. Anorexics very cleverly able to manipulate others that everything is fine, bulimia is invisible until the person realises it or transforms to another kind of illness,” the psychologist says, adding that the female psyche is generally more susceptible to eating disorders because the connection between body and psyche in us is much stronger and more direct. “Anorexia and bulimia are typical of boys with homosexual orientation,” she claims.


It is also important to note that these disorders are not about “strong” or “weak” mentality, but should be accepted as the medical conditions they are. “It is important for all of us to be liked and we all strive for pleasure. In these people, these desires reach the pathological dimensions of an eating disorder. Pleasure could be derived both through overeating as well as from hunger. These are complex intra-psychic mechanisms and difficult to explain in a few words. The people with eating disorders need is not judgement, but support and help. We all need love,”, the psychologist concludes.


It is always important to have good role models when it comes to overcoming such a complicated disorder and sCOOL Media decided to meet you with one of them –  former rhythmic gymnastics and sports aerobics competitor Veselina Raicheva. She no longer competes, but spent 11 years on the floor, where he won many silver and bronze medals at national championships. According to her, establishing the right diet for yourself is very important. First, because it helps you maintain a healthy figure, but also for self-esteem and mood. But it is not only about food – it is also about being active, she claims.


“Acrobatics taught me patience, respect, discipline and most important – willingness to fight and always strive to win,”, the 17-year-old says. She thinks it would be good for every child to do sports because it develops one’s physique and mentality.


Yet, what would Veselina was what she would do if she found out that a friend of hers is suffering from anorexia or bulimia?


She says that the first step to recovery is the recognition of the problem and consulting a psychologist. Then – stand by your friend during their recovery – believe in them, in their dreams. Create, learn, exercise, read with them and enjoy their every achievement, thus strengthening their body and spirit, she says.